While beer seems to get the most recognition on the craft beverage scene, hard apple ciders are riding a craft wave, too, finding their niche between beer and wine. Though hard cider has only recently begun making a comeback in the U.S. after a long post-Prohibition absence, its popularity never waned in the U.K.
Traditional British ciders are drier than their U.S. counterparts, and while dry ciders don’t have a strong, fruity apple profile, other subtleties come through, like an acidity that provides complex tartness. One of the most popular brands in the U.K. is Strongbow Original Dry. You can try one at the Irish Lion for the sake of British authenticity, however I think it lacks the complex acidic and apple characters of other dry ciders. If you’d rather taste a domestic dry cider, try Angry Orchard’s Stone Dry. It’s a crisp cider that leaves you with a little pucker at the end.
My preference is for semi-dry ciders because they offer more complex apple flavors than their drier cousins. One of my favorites is Semi Dry from Rhinegeist Brewery in Cincinnati. This cider has a tart apple flavor with a hint of earthiness and some slight yeast character—well-blended into a distinct but not overwhelming flavor profile. Its acidity is moderate, enough to balance out its medium body. Rhinegeist is better known for its beers and it’s not a dedicated craft cidery, but I like the balance and flavor this accessible cider offers. Cider purists might prefer J.K.’s Scrumpy Hard Cider from Michigan—their Orchard Gate Gold is pressed from organic apples on their farm and fermented with wild yeasts, which provides a nice tartness and the slightest hint of funkiness.
Many of the ciders prominent in the U.S. market are relatively sweet, having intense apple taste that is often complemented with other fruit flavors like blackberry or peach. Most mainstream U.S. ciders fall into this category, and they can be very good if you like sweet drinks. Personally, sweet ciders overwhelm my taste buds quickly unless I am having them with a meal, particularly something spicy that provides balance.
If you aren’t sure what kind of cider might suit you, visit Friendly Beasts Cider Company, located off the B-Line Trail at 222 W. 2nd St. This local cidery always has five varieties on tap—typically a sweet and a semi-dry, as well as three others that rotate through various flavor experiments. I particularly enjoy their semi-dry The Whale’s Bowtie with its slight apple tartness—subtle and delicious. During my visit, they also had Screech Owl Peach—slightly sweeter with a mild peach flavor—and Roar, which blended apple flavors with an infusion of tea from Cup & Kettle Tea Company. It’s fun to see what they are experimenting with each time you visit.
There are a lot of ciders out there—from expensive artisanal bottles to simple six-packs. Don’t be shy about trying a range and deciding what suits your taste buds; you’re certain to find something that appeals to you!